May 22 2015

I Call Bulls**t On Work Life Balance.

Perfect work-life balance! The Utopian concept might be possible in some other reality, but it certainly isn’t so in the packed lives we all live today. While it is something we all covet and seek out, the harsh truth is, you are never going to get work-life balance, so stop trying!

Why you should give up trying for work-life balance?

Balance inherently indicates equality. So if someone says you should try and get better work-life balance, you begin by trying to ensure you are always equally engaged in both worlds. And then you strive to give exactly the same time, focus or priority to both home life and work. The trouble is, you do need to prioritise and you can’t have two things taking the top spot on your attention or time scale at the same time. Something’s gotta give.

Struggling to find someone else’s balance is exhausting

Whatever you do, do not compare. Do not try and emulate someone you admire at work or home. Their life is different from yours, even if it might seem similar on the surface. If you try and compare and keep pace with their choices and make those your decisions as well, you may find yourself feeling guilty about not being able to do something else that’s as important to you.

For instance, he or she may opt to volunteer to be on the steering committee of the annual office off-site conference, and if you want to be ‘equal’ at work and home, you may be inclined to sign up too. But perhaps your spouse is going through a rough patch at work, or your elderly parents are craving for some extra time with you, or you have your PTA meeting around the corner – and this matters to you as well.

The extra hours volunteering, then managing time for family will leave you ragged. Ignore the home front and you may feel terribly guilty. Instead, you may choose to chip in at the conference itself, without taking on the load of the entire event. That is your balance.

Find your own balance

While a work-life balance seems impossible to pin down, what is far more manageable and realistic is finding your own balance. It may tip the scales ever so slightly in one direction, and that is perfectly okay. You might need to skip a work meeting and have someone else in your team make the presentation, so you can be at your daughter’s performance at school – and in that moment, you have tipped the balance in favour of your family.

Don’t cut yourself up about it, because there will be many times when you put work first. The long hours, cancelled vacations or ‘urgent calls’ from work, all need your family life to be put on the backburner, even if it is for a matter of a few minutes. In the long run, it all has a way of working itself out, so long as you don’t fight it.

Make it work for YOU

The key to finding something that works for you is just that – it has to be what works for you. It isn’t about someone else’s idea of what your balance should be. So your mother, sister, neighbour, spouse, and not even your best friend will be able to figure out what this means for you. Nor will your empathetic colleague, or your understanding boss (if you are one of the blessed ones to have such a thing).

Changing balances

And remember, this isn’t a constant. The balance you need right now may be completely wrong for you ten years down the line. So you will need to constantly adjust your expectations of yourself and your life, as you live and grow in your career and personal life. Recalibrate what you want your life to look like and then figure out a way to make it happen. At times, you may find yourself more present for your family and less at work – and that’s fine.

As long as you remember that it isn’t about equal work-life balance but a balance that works for you, you will do just fine.

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